Half of the World: Isfahan

In the wilderness about 200 miles south of Tehran is a place called “Half of the World.” Ishfahan, twice the capital of Persia, was the highlight of my journey to Iran in 2017. If Ishfahan is half the world, then Shiraz, even further south is the other half.

But to get to these cities of over a million persons each, it is necessary to negotiate the Zagros mountains, a range of rocky cathedrals of stones and rocks spanning about 990 miles from the eastern edge of the Fertile Crescent ending at the Strait of Hormuz on the Persian Gulf. Although over-grazed and deforested, scattered valleys do nurture grains like wheat and barley, lentils, nuts like almond and pistachio, and fruit trees bearing apricot, plum, and pomegranate plus grape vines. Persian oak trees are the most important tree species on this western boundary of the Iranian plateau. The last asiatic lions known to roam the foothills were photographed in the mid-19th century.

The Zagros Mountain Range

Some sheep herding continues in the shadow of the Zagros